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Afghanistan War Weekly: April 4, 2011
The news media’s focus remained on North Africa and the Middle East this week, with some Afghanistan reporters even being redeployed to that region. Despite the lack of media coverage, there are two stories from last week that I think are important.
The first is the apparently very successful US tour of Malalai Joya, the Afghan former parliamentarian who has endangered her life by speaking out against both the US war and the Karzai/warlord regime. In the article immediately below, she speaks about the US “rogue killers’” photos of their victims, now appearing in media worldwide. After an initial refusal to grant her a US visa, a strong protest from peace activists, the ACLU, etc. finally allowed her to enter the US, though some of her speaking dates had already gone by. Videos from Democracy Now! give a good indication of her ability to deliver a strong message.
Also on my mind from last week’s news is the announcement that General David Petraeus will be leaving Afghanistan this summer. An earlier Pentagon announcement had stated that his departure date was the end of the year. Perhaps this difference in the announcements is not significant, but it could mean: a) that Petraeus’ health problems are more severe (prostate cancer) than previously stated; b) his open disagreement with President Obama on the size of the projected “drawdown” of US troops this summer has led to either his resignation or his firing; or c) that he is resigning earlier than planned to make his “availability” for the Republican presidential nomination more viable.
Once again, if you find this newsletter useful, I would appreciate your help in expanding circulation. I would also appreciate suggestions about good articles to link here, and also comments (pro & con) that would help to make this newsweekly better. My email is email@example.com. This “issue” and some previous editions of the Afghanistan War Weekly are posted on the websites of United for Peace and Justice (http://www.unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=4111) and War is a Crime (www.afterdowningstreet.org/aww).
----Frank Brodhead, Concerned Families of Westchester (NY)
Kill teams in Afghanistan: the truth
Malalai Joya, The Guardian, [March 30, 2011]
---- The disgusting and heartbreaking photos published last week in the German media, and more recently in Rolling Stone magazine, are finally bringing the grisly truth about the war in Afghanistan to a wider public. All the PR about this war being about democracy and human rights melts into thin air with the pictures of US soldiers posing with the dead and mutilated bodies of innocent Afghan civilians. I must report that Afghans do not believe this to be a story of a few rogue soldiers. We believe that the brutal actions of these "kill teams" reveal the aggression and racism which is part and parcel of the entire military occupation. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/mar/30/kill-team...
See also: (Video) “Obama Administration Relents and Grants Visa to Leading Afghan Antiwar Campaigner Malalai Joya for U.S. Trip – 6 minutes http://www.democracynow.org/2011/3/28/obama_administration_relents_and_g... and (Video) "Stop These Massacres": Ex-Afghan Parliamentarian Malalai Joya Calls for End to U.S. Occupation of Afghanistan http://www.democracynow.org/2011/3/28/stop_these_massacres_ex_afghan_par...
Two or Three Things You Need to Know About Afghanistan
By Shaukat Qadir, Counterpunch [April 4, 2011]
---- What this background information intends to put across is the fact that whenever there is a return to some kind of ‘normalcy’ in Afghanistan, and its resultant normalcy on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line, a fresh tribal system will emerge. If there is a return to the concept of Blue Blooded families; these families will not be the same as the ones before. Egalitarianism in justice will remain an essential ingredient, but this time it might be closer to a democratic system sans the social schisms that were traditional to the Pashtun tribal system and the Cleric will inevitably become ‘more equal’ than he was in the traditional system. http://counterpunch.org/qadir04042011.html
THE WAR IN WASHINGTON
Within Obama’s war cabinet, a looming battle over pace of Afghanistan drawdown
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post [March 30, 2011]
---- Military leaders and President Obama’s civilian advisers are girding for battle over the size and pace of the planned pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer, with the military seeking to limit a reduction in combat forces and the White House pressing for a withdrawal substantial enough to placate a war-weary electorate. …Some senior officers and military planning documents have described the July pullout as small to insignificant, prompting deep concern within the White House. At a meeting of his war cabinet this month, Obama expressed displeasure with such characterizations of the withdrawal, according to three senior officials with direct knowledge of the session. … The most significant issue is the price tag. Increasing the Afghan security forces to 378,000 could cost as much as $8 billion a year. Much of that would have to be paid for by the United States. “That’s a huge bill,” the senior official said. “In this fiscal environment, think of what we could do at home with $8 billion.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/within-obamas-war-cabinet-a-looming-...
Defense shuffle: U.S. set to name new Afghanistan commanders
By Laura Rozen [April 1, 2011]
---- David Petraeus, perhaps the most celebrated American general of his generation, is likely to leave his job as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan this summer, multiple defense officials say.
Petraeus, who stepped into the post last summer after President Barack Obama fired Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal for comments his aides made to Rolling Stone magazine, is likely to be succeeded by Deputy CENTCOM commander, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Allen, defense sources told The Envoy. http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_theenvoy/20110401/ts_yblog_theenvoy/defens...
(Video) US rethinks policy on Afghanistan
From Aljazeera – 25 minutes
---- Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, discusses with guests: Prince Ali Seraj - President of the National Coalition for Dialogue with the tribes of Afghanistan; Phil Rees, journalist and author of "Dining with Terrorists" and Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specialising in foreign policy and civil liberties. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikaP31O92-4
USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE WAR
---- 711 Coalition soldiers were killed in 2010, including 499 US soldiers. 20 US soldiers were killed in February, and 30 were killed in March. In total, 2,391 Coalition soldiers have been killed since the beginning of the war, including 1,523 soldiers from the United States. 274 US soldiers were wounded in January, and 187 were wounded in February. The total US wounded in 2010 was 5,226, and the number wounded since the war began is 10,468. To learn more go to www.icasualties.org and to http://tomhayden.com/downloads/Wounded.pdf. On US wounded soldiers, see the important article by C.J.Chivers, “In Wider War in Afghanistan, Survival Rate of Wounded Rises,” New York Times [January 8, 2011] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/world/asia/08wounded.html?_r=1&hp
---- “Afghan civilian toll up 20 percent-U.N. report,” by Jonathon Burch, Reuters [December 21, 2010] states that “Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 20 percent in the first 10 months of this year compared with 2009, the United Nations said, with more than three-quarters killed or wounded as a result of insurgent attacks. In a quarterly report on Afghanistan this month, the United Nations said there were 6,215 civilian casualties from conflict-related incidents, including 2,412 deaths and 3,803 injuries, between January and the end of October this year.” http://in.reuters.com/article/idINIndia-53709120101221?rpc=401&feedType=... For an investigation of how the UN undercounts Afghanistan civilian casualties, see Gareth Porter and Shah Noori, “UN Reported Fraction of Afghan Civilian Deaths in US Raids,” Antiwar.com [March 18, 2011] http://original.antiwar.com/porter/2011/03/17/un-reported-fraction-of-af.... For an extensive listing of casualty estimates since the war began, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties_of_the_War_in_Afghanist...
The Cost of the War
---- According to the website www.costofwar.com, expenditures on the Afghanistan war have reached $392 billion and the total for both the Afghanistan and the Iraq wars is $1.175 trillion. For a useful resource on the costs of war, go to “Bring Our War $$ Home” at www.bringourwardollarshome.org/index.html
Public opinion about the war in Afghanistan
---- While support for/opposition to the war remained about the same (37%/54%), a CBS News poll of March 18-21 showed a sharp increase in the number of respondents who said that the war was going “very well” or “moderately well” – with the combined figure at its highest level in years (44%). http://www.pollingreport.com/afghan.htm.
---- Nearly two-thirds of Americans now say the war in Afghanistan is no longer worth fighting, the highest proportion yet opposed to the conflict, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The finding signals a growing challenge for President Obama as he decides how quickly to pull U.S. forces from the country beginning this summer. “Poll: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say Afghan war isn’t worth fighting,”
Washington Post [March 15, 2011] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/poll-nearly-two-thirds-of-americans-...
---- A majority of voters, for the first time, support an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan or the creation of a timetable to bring them all home within a year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 31% of Likely U.S. Voters now say all troops should be brought home from Afghanistan immediately, while another 21% say a firm timetable should be established to bring all troops home within a year’s time. The combined total of 52% who want the troops home within a year is a nine-point jump from 43% last September. Just 37% felt that way in September 2009. [March 7, 2011] http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/a...
For earlier polls: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_public_opinion_on_the_war_in_...
DAMAGED SOLDIERS, BROKEN ARMY
More powerful roadside bombs lead to increase in spinal injuries among troops
By Seth Robbins, Stars and Stripes [March 27, 2011]
---- Stronger armored vehicles are preventing more service members in Afghanistan from being killed by roadside bombs. But the bombs are still powerful enough to cause severe skeletal and spinal injuries, the worst of which are leaving some paralyzed, Army surgeons say. Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, have V-shaped armored hulls, designed to protect riders from a bomb’s shrapnel and firepower. The bomb’s immense energy is also absorbed by the vehicle. But as insurgents try to counter the vehicles’ protections with bigger blasts, much more of this energy is reaching soldiers’ bodies, especially their spines. http://www.stripes.com/more-powerful-roadside-bombs-lead-to-increase-in-...
THE WAR IN KABUL
Deadly Protests for Koran Burning Reach Kandahar
By Taimoor Shah and Rod Nordland, New York Times [April 3, 2011]
---- Violent protests over the burning of a Koran in Florida flared for a second straight day, with young men rampaging through the streets of this southern capital, flying Taliban flags and wielding sticks.
Nine people were killed and 81 injured in the disturbances, all from bullet wounds. The protests here came a day after a mob overran the headquarters of the United Nations in Mazar-i-Sharif Friday, killing 12 persons, seven of them international staff. The mob gathered after three mullahs at Friday Prayer urged action in response to the Koran burning by a pastor, Terry Jones, in Florida on March 20. Both Afghan and international news media had initially played down or ignored the action of Mr. Jones, the Florida pastor. This Thursday, however, President Hamid Karzai made a speech and issued statements condemning the Koran burning and calling for the arrest of Mr. Jones for his actions. On Friday that theme was picked up in mosques throughout Afghanistan.
See also: Thomas Ruttig, “The dead of Mazar,” Foreign Policy [April 3, 2011] http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/04/03/the_dead_of_mazar; and Jon Boone and Dominic Rushe, “Hamid Karzai calls on US Congress to condemn pastor's Qur'an burning,” The Guardian [UK] [April 3, 2011] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/03/karzai-congress-pastor-jones...
Afghan Elite Borrowed Freely From Kabul Bank
By Alissa J. Rubin and Rod Nordland, New York Times [March 28, 2011]
---- The sheer scale of the fraud and the lack of documentation about exactly where the money went appear to have initially stunned Central Bank officials. “All administrative bodies, supervisory bodies and decision-making bodies” in Kabul Bank played a role in the fraud, wrote the Central Bank’s internal auditors. So did the shareholders, who knew one another personally and were involved in joint bank-financed ventures. They “engineered extensive violations and used influence” with the bank’s executives so that they would have a ready source of money, the report said.
Western aid lines Taliban pockets in Afghanistan
By Emmanuel Duparcq (AFP) – 3/31/2001
---- When Afghan businessman Rahim won a lucrative deal from a NATO sub-contractor to build a road in the violence-hit south of the country, he put in a call to a local Taliban leader. The pair cut a deal -- every month Rahim would meet a Taliban representative and quietly hand over $20,000. In return, the insurgents would leave his project alone. "It was a good deal. We finished the project in seven months, 20 days ahead of schedule, without once being attacked," he told AFP. As the United States and its Western allies ramp up development in Afghanistan ahead of a planned military withdrawal, a significant proportion of the money spent is going to the very organisation they are here to defeat. http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5jpM_tX43PRWXEW4X0Psi3...
NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE ARMED OPPOSITION
It takes two to talk: reading the Century Foundation report
By Thomas Ruttig, March 24, 2011
---- The strongest part of the paper is when it lays out how a mechanism could look like if and when the Taliban decide that they want to talk. But what really is needed now -- and here the report is lacking again -- are realistic ideas about how the Taliban can be persuaded to enter into such negotiations, other than by applying more and more force and hoping that this will weaken them sufficiently. That latter might even happen without achieving the first: From all what we see, more violence just makes them more stubborn and might close the door for negotiations for a long time. http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/03/24/it_needs_two_to_talk_rea...
THE WAR ON THE GROUND
Signs of Strain as Taliban Gird for More Fighting
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times [March 31, 2011]
---- The Afghan Taliban are showing signs of increasing strain after a number of killings, arrests and internal disputes that have reached them even in their haven in Pakistan, Afghan security officials and Afghans with contacts in the Taliban say. The killings, coming just as the insurgents are mobilizing for the new fighting season in Afghanistan, have unnerved many in the Taliban and have spread a climate of paranoia and distrust within the insurgent movement, the Afghans said. Three powerful Taliban commanders were killed in February in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, well known to be the command center of the Taliban leadership, according to an Afghan businessman and a mujahedeen commander from the region with links to the Taliban. A fourth commander, a former Taliban minister, was wounded in the border town of Chaman in March, in a widely reported shooting. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/world/asia/31taliban.html?hp=&pagewant...
Afghan Governor Expelled as Taliban Seize District
By Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com [March 29, 2011]
---- The governor of the Waigal District of Afghanistan’s Nuristan Province has been expelled from his district by a Taliban offensive, officials are confirming. Over 300 Taliban fighters attacked the district, chasing both governor and police from the area. Provincial police commander Gen. Shams-ul-Rahman Zahid called the loss of the district a “tactical withdrawal,” saying the forces did not have enough ammunition to fight so many insurgents. …The Taliban has been competing with the US-backed Karzai government in Nuristan for years, and has considerable sway across the province. The complete takeover of the district shows just how deep their influence is, and suggests the Karzai government’s control in the province is slipping even further. http://news.antiwar.com/2011/03/29/afghan-governor-expelled-as-taliban-s...
See also: Rod Nordland and Sangar Rahimi, “Taliban Seize District in Eastern Afghanistan
New York Times [March 30, 2011] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/world/asia/30afghanistan.html?ref=worl...
Taliban target more civilians to counter US surge
By Jonathan Owen and Brian Brady, The Independent [UK] [April 4, 2011]
---- Afghan civilians will be targeted by the Taliban over the coming months, with fighting set to escalate, in an attempt to counter US claims that security is improving in parts of the country. Research revealed that there has been a 40 per cent rise in suicide attacks since the start of this year, with worse expected to come as part of an accelerated spring offensive to be launched by the insurgents in the coming months. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/taliban-target-more-civilia...
PAKISTAN/INDIA AND THE AFGHANISTAN WAR
Afghanistan: India's Uncertain Road
By Jyoti Thottam, Time [April 11, 2011]
---- With the U.S. looking for an exit, India is trying to figure out what its role in Afghanistan's uncertain future will be. U.S. counterinsurgency strategy aims to "clear, hold, build and transfer" a stable Afghanistan back to its people. The Indian government hopes to aid the "build and transfer" part of that effort by helping to develop Afghanistan's infrastructure and institutions. Whatever New Delhi does, it can expect truculent opposition from archrival Pakistan, which has long tried to influence what happens in Afghanistan, primarily to ensure that the country's power players are friendly to Islamabad. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2062364,00.html#ixzz1IY...
Pakistan seeks Interpol’s help in carrying out arrest warrant for Musharraf
By Pamela Constable, Saturday, March 26, 10:39 AM
---- An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan on Saturday asked the country’s top investigative agency to seek Interpol’s help in carrying out an arrest warrant for exiled former president Pervez Musharraf, whom prosecutors accuse of involvement in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, while he was in power. Musharraf, who lives in London, appeared unlikely to face imminent arrest or extradition. However, the Pakistani prosecution case linking him to Islamic extremists arrested in the killing has already proved a major setback to the retired general’s plans to return home and run for office. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/pakistan-issues-arrest-warrant-for-f...